Weightlifter Jourdan Delacruz Fights For A Second Olympic Chance In Paris
by Lynn Rutherford
In September, weightlifter Jourdan Delacruz had one of best meets of her life at the 2023 world championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, equaling her American record and winning a bronze medal in the women’s 49 kg. division.
“I think I willed (the lifts) into place,” the 2020 Olympian told reporters in Riyadh. “It was like, ‘No way I’m letting this go.’”
Speaking with TeamUSA.com several weeks later, she made it clear there was no secret sauce responsible for her success. Timing and preparation made the difference.
“My coach (Spencer Arnold) and I decided to train through the first Grand Prix in Cuba (in June), so that means the last time I peaked was for Pan Ams in April,” she said. “So, we had a longer time to train and really build in our volume space, and by the time I got to worlds, I was just feeling really strong.”
Delacruz lifted 88 kg. in the snatch and 112 kg. in the clean & jerk for a 200 kg. total in Riyadh, jumping up to the podium from seventh in the world last season. Her clean & jerk lift was also the third best in her class.
“The competence came from how much time we had to prepare,” she said.
Time is a luxury Delacruz may not always have. Team USA can bring just six weightlifters to the Olympic Games Paris 2024, three women and three men. The selection will come down to which athletes earn the highest total in qualifying events. And while Delacruz is the current leader in her weight category, she can’t rest on her laurels.
“We’re still in the heat of trying to qualify,” she said. “My goal is just to keep that spot and improve my total.”
The 25-year-old native of Wylie, Texas, who now makes her home outside Atlanta, came to the sport via an unusual route. A former competitive cheerleader, she found weightlifting in the summer of 2014 through CrossFit. In 2015, she qualified for junior nationals and, from there, the youth world championships. By 2018, she began qualifying to compete in senior international events.
“I loved challenging myself, and I was intrigued by the technical aspect of weightlifting, the constant pursuit of chasing the most perfect technique,” Delacruz said. “That’s what drew me in.”
What made her stay, though, was the close-knit community.
“In weightlifting, you’re surrounded by really uplifting people,” she said. “Women’s weightlifting is a lot larger now, but when I started, it was pretty tight-knit and small. They were very welcoming, and I felt really supported. I think that’s why I pursued it so fully.”
Delacruz moved to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when she was just a teenager, training there for 18 months alongside athletes hoping to qualify for the 2016 Rio Games. While there, she grew especially close to 2016 Olympian Morghan King.
“She was in the 48 kg. weight class, and for me, that was just so inspiring to see a smaller woman be able to lift so much weight,” said Delacruz, who stands 4 feet, 11 inches tall. “It really just broadened my horizons of what I could truly achieve one day. Throughout my career, I’ve had a lot of great mentors, but she is the one that stands out the most.”
Outside of the gym, the athlete recently created an educational platform, @Herathlete, focusing on supporting better nutrition and performance for female athletes, especially in strength-based sports.
“There is a significant gender gap in the field of sports, including the scientific research and studies done on female athletes,” Delacruz said in her launch message on Instagram. “I hope to one day be a part of the movement in closing the gap in order to best support female athletes in all stages of their life and athletic career.”
“Herathlete” ties in with Delacruz’s online studies at the University of Northern Colorado, where she has nearly completed her B.S. in nutrition and dietetics. After that, she plans to pursue an M.S. and become a licensed nutritionist.
“My experience in athletics has given me a direction and a career that I want to pursue after sports,” she said. “And of course, being an active athlete, it comes in very handy having the resources and mentors to help. I do want to pursue grad school after Paris. That will be my next goal.”
Delacruz’s first Olympics was frustrating, and brief. Competing on the first day of the Games, she put up a strong result in the snatch, but missed three clean & jerk attempts at 108 kg. With that, her Olympics ended, and she was on the way home.
Qualifying for Paris would mean more than a second chance at a medal, or a shot at redemption. It’s something she wants to do for herself.
“I think everyone’s experience at their first Olympics kind of dictates how they approach their second one,” she said. “For me, I want to be able to rewrite how my Olympic experience went — not just on the platform, but also the overall experience.”
The Tokyo Games took place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with athletes living and competing in a protective bubble that, by necessity, restricted movement and prevented much social interaction with teammates and members of other federations.
“I would love to see other sports, I would love to actually be there with my teammates,” Delacruz said. “In Tokyo, I competed on the first day of the Olympics, and then I left that night. I was the only (Team USA) weightlifter there that day. I would just love to be there, and have my family there, and my friends there, and get that Olympic experience everyone talks about.”